How to Feed a Stray Cat



Good Stories come from the Creek

Listen to Curt read “How to Feed a Stray Cat” at our Creekbank Podcast.

How to Feed a Stray Cat


I’m a dog person.

I’ve always loved dogs.

I like cats, but I love dogs.


What I really have is a soft heart for any strays.

Maybe that’s why the stray cat in our Wal-Mart parking lot caught my eye.

He was slim but had a shiny black-brown-blue coat. When I approached him, he scampered off into the thick bushes along the privacy fence.

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As I entered WalMart, I felt sorry for its sad situation. For the first time in my life, I bought a can of dollar cat food at the end of aisle 16.

Friskies flavored with tuna.

I opened the can at the fence line, sat on the curb, and waited.

Mr. Cat sniffed at the food while warily watching me.  I scooted the can toward him, and he took the bait, digging into the Friskies with Tuna.

As any stray would, he seemed hungry and wolfed (excuse my idiom) down the food.

Then he sat on his haunches, studying me.

“I bet you’ve got a story to tell. Where did you come from?”

He licked his whiskers and said not a word.

The next day, I returned with a bowl of water and a tin of dry cat food. I poured some milk over it. If we were going to be in a long-term relationship, cat food cereal would have to suffice. Those Friskies are expensive.

I glanced around the Wal-Mart parking lot before addressing him,  “Since we’re on a first-name basis, I’m naming you Sam. Do you know who Sam Walton is? He started this empire.”

“And Sam, if you turn out to be female, we’ll call you Sammie.”

I’ve never known about a cat’s sex. My granddaughter Emma is an expert at gender identification, but I told her I didn’t want to hear it from her.

I returned with breakfast over the next several days but was met with cat-like aloofness.

It may have been the gathering pile of empty cat tins.

A cat will seldom bite the hand that feeds it; it’ll just ignore it. He seemed to be saying, Can’t you do any better than this?

This reminded me of why I like dogs much more.

Then, I made a disturbing discovery: About a half dozen empty Friskies cans were scattered throughout the bushes.

I guessed there were other stray lovers whose hearts were tugged at and left food for “Sam.”

The cat was out of the bag.

I scolded him, “Sam, you’re a freeloader. You’re a panhandler, just like those guys at the corner of Jackson and MacArthur holding a cardboard sign. You’re a panhandling bum.

I curtailed my missions of mercy. Sam didn’t need me.

I noticed he turned his nose up at my dry cat food offering.

It’s hard to settle for cat hardtack when you’re getting three cans of Friskies a day.

I quit feeding Sam but would still visit him when I shop. Sam looks as healthy as any cat you’ve seen.

I took my other granddaughter, Eliza, to meet Sam, hoping we might catch him and bring him home.

A Wal-Mart worker yelled across the lot. “You people need to quit feeding that cat. He ain’t no stray.”  She pointed across the fence. “That cat belongs to that white house on the other side of the fence. He’s conning the whole lot of y’all.”

I turned to Eliza, “Not only is Sam a panhandler, but he’s also playing both sides of the fence. Let’s go home.”

. He was playing me—no, he was playing all of us. I’ll let the others feed him Friskies one dollar a can at a time.

 At least my dog Bandit shows gratitude and views me as his master.

I’m not sure cats are capable of either.


* * *


There is a wonderful children’s book, Six Dinner Sid, about a cat that cleverly roams to get six meals per evening.

I bet Six-Dinner Sid and Sam the Panhandler are kin.

At least second cousins once removed, if not closer.

* * *

I recently posted a blog titled “How to Tell a Truly Homeless Person from a Panhandler.” In it, I share two acid tests I use to distinguish between the two.

I want to be clear: We should be compassionate toward the truly homeless living on the street. This has become part of my ministry in downtown Alexandria, and I find it frustratingly fulfilling.

But you can ignore the street corner panhandlers. Don’t let them guilt into enabling their con game. They’re con artists. They’re grifters. They’re swindlers.

Don’t give them the time of day. Don’t enable them. Give them a bottle of water but not your bread.


You have been warned. Watch out for those stray cats. You’ll find them behind every bush and on every street corner.

On the journey,


Visit to read blogs stretching back to 2009.

Click here to listen to this story in a Deep South Louisiana Pineywoods dialect mixed with a Dry Creek accent.

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